In 2004, a New York Times reporter asked Stephen Hawking what his IQ was. “I have no idea,” the theoretical physicist replied. “People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
President Donald Trump seems to think otherwise. After recent reports that Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, called him a moron, Trump told Forbes: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
As Philip Bump at The Washington Post reported, Trump has a history of boasting about his IQ, and challenging others to IQ tests. His supporters have also taken up this cause for him in the past. In December 2016, a chart made the rounds saying that Trump’s IQ was 156, putting him above most past presidents. (The median score is 100.) The fact-checking website Snopes rated this claim as false: While the chart was based on a real study, the study didn’t have real IQ scores for most presidents (it estimated their IQs based on other factors), Trump wasn’t included in the study, and most importantly,“Donald Trump’s true intelligence quotient is unknown,” the article reads.
Scientists disagree on how useful IQ tests are as a measurement of intelligence. There’s research to show that IQ can change over the lifespan, for example. And some say that it doesn’t account for things like emotional intelligence or creativity. But “IQ” remains an easy shorthand for referring to intelligence, with the added bonus of sounding scientific, quantifiable, and official.